Gibson John Lennon

gibson john lennon

In 1954, Gibson John Lennon launched an electrified version of their hugely popular Southern Jumbo (SJ) called the J-160E. Like the CF-100E, it had a single-coil pickup mounted right below the fretboard with electric-style Volume and Tone knobs mounted directly on the soundboard. The J-160E featured a 3-ply laminated spruce top (the earliest models in 1954 were solid), a solid mahogany back, laminated mahogany sides, and a neck that met the body at the 15th fret, allowing room for the pickup between the fretboard and soundhole.

While the J-160E was certainly a dual-purpose instrument, many collectors don’t realize that it was designed primarily as an electric that could be used as an acoustic. Piezo and internal pickups were years from being developed, so this is all Gibson knew at the time. The laminated top and ladder bracing were used intentionally to prevent unwanted frequencies and feedback. Also, because the neck was moved up to allow room for the pickup, the bridge had to be moved forward as well—so traditional X bracing wouldn’t work in this situation.

According to the serial number, your guitar dates from either 1966 or 1969. The long-style pickguard on your guitar was introduced in 1968, so we can safely assume your guitar is a 1969 model. This was probably one of the last J-160Es produced before Gibson switched to the square shoulder body style they adopted on nearly all their acoustics in the late ’60s and early ’70s. For whatever reason, the J-160E was always a bit late to adopt changes compared to other Gibson models. Everything appears to be stock on the guitar, including the bridge and control knobs.

This 1969 J-160E, in the condition it appears (which is 70 percent or “average”), is valued today between $1850 and $2250. If it were mint, it would be a $3000 to $3500 instrument. Astute readers will know that the J-160E is more valuable than an SJ produced during the same period. The J-160E ’s value is higher simply because of its association with the Beatles, and this is fairly typical of any guitar that a famous musician or band is known for using. Instrument association has affected every instrument the Beatles ever played, including Paul McCartney’s Höfner 500/1 “Beatle Bass,” John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325 and Gibson J-160E, and George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 360 12-string.

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